A journey through the biological complexity of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa
Inaugural lecture delivered on 18 March 2014.
Léanne Dreyer’s fascination with nature started in her pre- ‘‘school years, and has increased steadily throughout her life. She was attracted by the different smells, colours, textures and shapes nature offered, and by the true beauty often revealed in the smallest details. This led her to enrol for a BSc degree at Stellenbosch University, majoring in Botany and Genetics. Her honours and MSc degrees in Botany at the same university focused on the systematics of Pelargonium, a large genus within the biologically rich Cape Floristic Region (CFR). After completing her MSc degree she was appointed as scientist by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in Pretoria, and she enrolled for a PhD at the University of Pretoria under the supervision of Prof AE van Wyk. Her dissertation focused on the palynological diversity of Oxalis, another of the large CFR plant genera. She was appointed by SANBI as South African Botanical Liaison Officer at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew (London) during the first year of her PhD studies. After completion of her PhD she was appointed as Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Prof Peter Linder at the University of Cape Town, and then as lecturer at Stellenbosch University in 1998. Her subsequent research career focused on the diversity and evolution of CFR biota, with a special focus on Oxalis. In 2005 she became a core team member of the NRF/DST Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology. This led to an expansion of her research focus to include the fascinating plant-fungus-arthropod interactions prevalent within the CFR.